DisneylandForward Approved by Anaheim Planning Commission, Project Moves to City Council for Final Approval

    The DisneylandFoward rezoning effort has been approved by the City of Anaheim Planning Commission, sending it to City Council for final approval. The DisneylandForward project, which would allow Disney to expand the footprint of its existing theme parks, was first announced nearly two years ago.

    Since then, Disneyland has held more than a dozen community events, encouraging the public to learn more about the project and provide feedback.

    The Planning Commission approved the project with a 5-1 vote after a lengthy discussion that included public comments from area residents and even Disneyland officials.

    What Is DisneylandForward?

    After the COVID-19 shutdown, Disney reevaluated its offerings and they took the downtime to look forward to the future of the resort. DisneylandForward is essentially an effort from Disney to get updated development approvals from the city of Anaheim to allow for different uses of the land they already own.

    The existing Disneyland Resort Specific Plan, approved in the 1990s, created districts for growth and limited the types of uses allowed in each district. Approvals generally required new hotels to be located in the Hotel District and traditional theme park uses to be located in the Theme Park District. But Disney wants to provide guests with a more integrated experience, including expanding the footprint of its existing theme parks.

    While Disney has the development rights and the desire to continue investing in Anaheim, the space to develop integrated offerings is severely limited. Without broadening the uses allowed within each district or demolishing and replacing many beloved theme park attractions, further integrated development and theme park investment are not possible.

    As seen below, Disneyland’s last expansion plan in the 90s included breaking out the property it owned into development districts. Theme parks in one district, hotels in another district, parking in another, and future entertainment in another. In the image below, we can see how the 1990 plan on the left was filled in by 2023 on the right. Essentially, Disney developed a lot of parking lots to support hotels and the new Disney California Adventure theme park.

    Now, with more expansion plans in mind, Disneyland needs rezoning approval from the City to allow it to build west of the current theme park footprints on land designated for hotel and parking use.

    The DisneylandForward effort is essentially a campaign and related applications to get that rezoning approval to continue to expand the theme park and entertainment offerings at the Disneyland Resort. Here’s a look at how Disney would expand both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure if the rezoning efforts are successful. Note that in addition to the theme park expansion, Disneyland wants to build a mini Disney Springs as well, as depicted in the lower right of the image below.

    Anaheim Planning Commission Approval

    Last night, during an hours-long meeting that seemed to include some stalling tactics by one Commission member, Disneyland finally got approval from the Commission for the DisneylandForward project. Note that despite the excitement on social media, this is not final approval, and the project must go in front of the City Council for a final vote. That said, it is a major hurdle crossed in a 5-1 vote.

    During the meeting, Disney officials spoke about the importance of the project, including current Disneyland President Ken Potrock. Potrock called DisneylandForward a “legacy project” for both Disney and Anaheim, and likened the project to Walt Disney’s original partnership with the city when he built Disneyland back in the 1950s.

    Potrock noted that the $1.9 billion figure often cited in the media is a minimum investment amount over the next 10 years, and that in order for any single project to qualify toward that amount, it would need to be a “revenue-producing assets”. Potrock said that the assets would need to lead to tax revenue to the city to be considered revenue-producing. That means that theme park expansions and lodging would qualify.

    Potrock said that “when Disney invests, everyone wins”. He said that it is estimated that Disney’s expansion would bring roughly $30 million in new revenues for the City of Anaheim alone. It is estimated that nearly 9,000 jobs would be created by the construction of the project, and more than 4,500 new operations jobs once the project is open.

    DisneylandForward Overview Video

    At the March 11th Planning Commission meeting, Disneyland showed off the following DisneylandFoward overview video, showcasing the investments that Disney will make in the Anaheim area, and dreaming of what could come from the project.

    DisneylandFoward Next Steps

    With the project out of the Planning Commission stage, it will go to City Council for a final vote. This vote is currently expected to take place on April 16, 2024. Should Disneyland receive approval, they have not said when the project would begin, but Disney did say that development of the land could take decades.

    With Disney Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro and Disney CEO Bob Iger repeatedly saying that they are ready to “turbocharge” investment in the theme parks and resorts, it’s possible that we hear more about the DisneylandFoward plans at this year’s D23 Expo.

    Indeed, Disney officials at the recent Planning Commission meeting said that Disney knows “very clearly what we’d like to build”, and where they’d like to build it, but that they need final approval before they can move forward.

    As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!

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